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'If you are focusing on "I have to get back to Ireland," you’re not going to play your best rugby'

Tommy O’Donnell is licking his lips at the prospect of three straight interpros.

Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

MUNSTER FLANKER TOMMY O’Donnell says three Irish derbies in a row is a decent way to come back from injury after the disappointment of missing the Champions Cup victories over Leicester Tigers.

O’Donnell suffered a shoulder injury prior to the November international against South Africa but is now raring to go again, starting with arch rivals Leinster at a packed Thomond Park on St Stephen’s Day.

“There’s a new prospect of playing three interprovincials back to back, I don’t think we’ve done that and then you’re heading into back-to-back Europe after that.

“So, there’s plenty of games left to be played and plenty of rugby left in the season and all to play for and you just want the team to play well and to progress and make quarter-finals, semi-finals and be in the best position and playing the best rugby you can at the end of the season.”

But, of course, it’s not just action with Munster that he is looking forward to and with a Six Nations squad to be selected next month, the Tipperary native knows he has a chance to impress.

He won the last of his dozen caps back in March against Scotland in the Six Nations but then missed the tour to the USA and Japan due to an ankle injury.

“You see the way the cards fall and heading into November there was a good opportunity of getting game-time. Obviously nothing is guaranteed as was shown by the injury. You can only get into those positions by doing what you do and playing good rugby and I’ve found in the past if you are focusing on ‘I have to get back to Ireland, I have to get back to Ireland’, that that’s when you’re not going to play your best rugby.

“But doing what you do and leaving 100% on the field every week is the best way of doing it and just building up game time and giving them every chance of see you for the full 80 minutes every week is the best way of doing it.”

O’Donnell signed a contract extension this time last year which keeps him with Munster until the summer of 2019, but he said he can understand why players would move abroad and wasn’t always sure whether Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander would stay.

“You want them to stay and Munster to keep going on the trajectory that its going but then again there is always the possibility that they might decide what’s best for them and best for their family at the time and you can’t fault Zeebs for doing that and heading away to France for the money he’s been offered. In the back of your mind you back the lads to stay and enjoy playing rugby with Munster and continue the trajectory that we are on,” said the 30-year old, who has chalked up 151 appearances for the province.

So, was he ever tempted himself to head away? “I’ve considered it in the point of when I was… I don’t think I had the best leverage, I was injured at the time, and it’s very hard to negotiate with foreign clubs when they don’t see you performing at the time so that was about the extent of it.

“If it’s what’s best for you, best for your rugby, and best for your family at the time, you have to consider that and sit down and make that decision,” he added.

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